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Viewing the 'Spending' Category

DIY Dryer Fix

January 4th, 2018 at 05:28 pm

My dryer wouldn't start today! And I won't lie, I did think it was likely that I would need to buy a new one. We had looked at some good deals around Black Friday, but went back to we didn't need one yet. I think our set is at least 16 years old, maybe even 18.

But then my desire to DIY the problem kicked in. No the breaker hadn't tripped. Yes, it was still plugged in. Google said a thermal fuse going bad (or tripped) is usually number one cause. So then, despite a snow day here (school and work cancelled), we ventured out to get a thermal fuse.

The business was open. Roads were awful for the first two or three miles after leaving our neighborhood. Packed ice!! But the remainder of the trip was dry or just wet roads. Cost for a thermal fuse was $30.

So we came home (crawled the last two miles in our truck on the ice) and set about finding where the parts were so we could replace. One was easy to access, the other...not easy. We ended up opening the top, the front panel and taking out the entire dryer drum! Yep, taking that drum out worried me the most. But we did watch a YouTube video about it first! There was another back panel we detached and we took out the heating element. I seriously think my husband and I could put these together for a living now that we've seen all the parts!!

The best news is it's fixed! Back in working order and has already dried two loads of laundry.

Actually, the very best news is that part died and we were able to get so far inside...there is a lot of lint that accumulates inside a dryer. Sure most of it likely goes through the vent, but over time a lot of lint accumulates inside. It has been cleaned a few times before, but not this deep. And yes, I know to check the lint trap and the vent to the outside regularly. I'm really glad that we were able to have a reason to clean it out so well. I won't hesitate to open it up again in a year or two and clean it out again.

Oh, we also know how to replace the belt on the dryer if needed. And if I had known we were going to be removing it anyway I may have purchased one while getting the other part. But it still works!

Have you ever fixed a dryer? Or other major household appliance?

Frugal Month Begins

January 2nd, 2018 at 05:34 am

We did a big grocery store run on New Year's Eve. We were out of quite a few things, but it feels like we overbought. That may be a good thing as we go into the frugal month.

In some ways, I'm not really planning to start until our daughter heads back to school on Saturday. I did however put cash in our Everyday budget categories and it far less than normal. The amount is $783...and that's for half the month. I know, it doesn't sound that frugal. But yet, some of those are needs, and some have a little fluff in them that I hope not to spend at all.



Groceries are lower and I hope to come in lower than I budgeted. My husband and I are dieting this month, so I expect that will help our food budget. Less snacks!

Fuel is the about the same, slightly higher as we have one trip out of town. I also expect a toll bill this month. I hope to keep myself out of stores, thus only driving will be to school and grocery store.

Spending money is normal. Most of that is allowances for the girls. One gets $17, the other gets $125. The remaining $20 should be for the month to cover parking and tips to baggers at the commissary.

Restaurants is at $60 because I expect one meal out for four people when we are out of town. My husband is also using this category for coffee at work. Not happy about this, but the thermos plan didn't pan out, so he buys a cup for $2 almost every day.

Clothing is at just $25. I'd rather put something in there than nothing. If I find some clearance shirts within that budget, I may buy them for my daughter, but for the most part, I am not going shopping. In the end I hope it is saved.

Household goods is at $20. I know we will need dishwasher detergent and dish soap. Most other household items we should be stocked up on.

I did not put anything in Alcohol or Entertainment. We will not be paying for entertainment in the month of January. And I am committed to no alcohol in the month of January. I think my husband is as well.

Personal care is for haircuts and personal care products. We are well stocked at this point. The only thing that could change is the need for some vitamins, but I do have Swagbucks to redeem for Amazon gift cards, so those could be covered that way.

The gifts category would only be used for postage. I may sew my sister a gift for her birthday late in the month, so that is money I would need to mail it to her.

And the Pet category is a need. I bought our cat food for the month and we will need another box of litter.

Now as I said that is really only for half the month. I will replenish groceries and fuel at the mid month payday. And as you can see some balances are less than budgeted that is because some items purchased (like groceries) were bought on December 31 and but came out of the January budget.

It's cold here in the Southeast! Cold enough that school start times are on a two hour delay today. Cold enough the Army is on a two hour delay! As of 8am it is 14 degrees, and feels like 8. Now I know that those of you in the midwest are far colder, and you are still having school and work!

I'm not looking forward to our heating bill. I'm sure many of you feel the same. We were quite mild though for part of the month, so maybe that will help spread out the cost.

Buying The Kid Clothes

December 28th, 2017 at 07:10 pm

More clothes buying today. Another two shirts purchased for college daughter at JC Penney. Spent $35 after $10 coupon. Considering she is no longer growing and we don't buy clothes that often it was money well spent.

Our family went out to dinner tonight. It was planned and budgeted knowing that it would be nice to go out once while our daughter is home on break. Not sure what we spent, but it wasn't a high end restaurant. Dinner for four people adds up even at fast casual restaurants.

I'm looking forward to doing year end final tallies of retirement totals, interest earned, and Big Goal money.

All Over The Place

December 27th, 2017 at 07:32 am

This post may be a bit all over the place...several money thoughts on my mind this morning that I simply want to share.

We bought a new camera just before Christmas. We have been without one for about two years. I personally could probably have passed, but my husband seemed very interested. He has made a great point of using it over the last several days, getting pictures and video of our family. We took a family picture to send out on Facebook. The cost of the camera was $299, plus tax. He also bought an HD SD card. I was mad about that part initially, but I do see it has some better features than some older cards we have, so I will deal. I applied my husband's birthday money that he hadn't yet spent, and the remaining Christmas budget to cover most of it. After that I just took some cash from other budget areas so we can make it work.

We shopped for some grocery and personal care needs at Target yesterday. I used a $2 coupon along with the gift cards I bought for 10% off after Thanksgiving. So no new money out of pocket for things we needed. I was thinking of going to the store again, but I think I'm going to see if we can make it through Friday or Saturday night and just get our regular groceries for the first week in January.

Our final 2017 education and retirement contributions have been made. We added $2K to our youngest's Coverdell account and maxed out our Roth IRA's. These are all on automatic investment from our checking account, so it's easy to make it happen. I will need to double our payment in 2018 for our daughter's final contributions. She turns 18 in July, after which we we can no longer contribute. I think I may actually just take $1000 from savings and put it in for January. and then continue our regular $166.66 for the first six months of the year as we usually do. I can pay ourselves back the $1000 to savings for the remainder of the year.

I'm working on financial goals for 2018, but I need more time to focus. It's a little busy around here this week, with both girls off school and my husband home from work!

Our Discover statement closed the other day. We earned $15.53 in rewards. I'm going to redeem those and put them towards the Big Goal.

I transferred $8K we had in a second checking account to FNBO Direct yesterday. They have 1.4% interest rate, which is far better than our checking account.

We are about to buy my daughter a new cell phone. Her's is 3.5 years old, barely holds a charge and the camera on it no longer works. She is going to get the same phone I have, it will cost us $13 a month for the next 24 months. Since I charge our Verizon bill to US Bank for 5% back we will also get that same discount on the cost of the phone as well, which adds up to $15 in the end. But we will take it!

And finally, we are very close to purchasing a new laptop computer for our youngest daughter to take to school in the fall. We are going to buy it from the university she is going to attend. They offer a four year warranty, a discount and no sales tax. It's a Dell that will work for her engineering study needs. Cost will be $1299. I currently have $1,047 in the budget for it. We should have the rest of the money on Friday when my husband is paid.

Thanks for sticking with me on all my thoughts! Smile

Christmas Spending Update

December 15th, 2017 at 05:30 am

I just printed my USPS shipping labels for two packages that I will have picked up at our house on Monday. The cost was $32.05. It really does feel like shipping has increased a lot! Luckily, this did fit into my Christmas budget. Smile

I've mentioned before that our Christmas budget is $600. I allocate half of that for our daughters. The remainder is split between my husband and I, my parents, two nieces, and my mother in law. This year I came in under budget, primarily due to using Swagbucks (redeemed for Amazon gift cards) for some purchases and buying some items used for my daughters. Both daughters are used to getting used. I did squeeze in a two pairs of socks for my sister and brother in law. See my Socks for Christmas post about that.

Here's what we spent:
Mother in Law $53 (check for $50 and $3 to ship it with pictures)
Sister's family $99.70 (includes $18.85 for shipping)
Parents $46.83 (includes $13.20 to ship)
Daughter 1 $115.94
Daughter 2 $44.75 (bought used and used Amazon gift cards)
Daughter's shared gift $64.65
Husband $62.16
CCF $58.38
Total $545.41

Technically, I went over budget for my husband and he went over for me. We were suppose to only spend $50 each. I bought him an extra gift of a saute pan (since he uses one every morning and we had to toss our old one out).

Now I must not have accounted for everything correctly, as the balance in my Christmas budget on YNAB shows a balance of f$103.12. The numbers above come from receipts.Maybe I lost a few. I do know of $10 that was for paper plates and lights. And I think another $20 may be for gifts I bought with Target gift cards, but were not recorded as Christmas in YNAB. So I'm slightly off above in my total spending as YNAB has to be a bit more correct.

The good news, we are under budget! I have $103 to be used for something else. I'm thinking a donation might be a good idea. Smile

$230 Left

December 11th, 2017 at 05:22 am

We are doing really well this pay period with spending. Out of about $1000 budgeted for our variable expenses this pay period we still have $230 left.

We did get pizza takeout on Friday night for $15.10. We rented a digital movie from Amazon the weekend before last for $4.27. Personal care has only consisted of two haircuts and about $20 in personal care products. Household goods spending is under $20, buying paper towels, all purpose spray, an adapter for my car charger and a few other items I can't remember. Really good deals on all of those.

Most of spending was on groceries and extras for holiday baking, fuel, and allowances for the girls. I have been buying more organic ingredients and making things from scratch like soups. I think these are expanding my grocery bill some. Does anyone here use Better than Bouillon? I use pre made stock or broth for my soups. Yes, I know you can make it but that isn't the direction I want to go. Traditional bouillon is very salty, and I understand this product has less salt.

It remains to be seen if we spend much more before Friday, but I think the leftover cash will likely go in the clothing budget which currently only has $80. My oldest daughter says she is in need of winter shirts. She swears she only has three! I guess when they are away at college we just don't shop that much! We won't need all that money, but I will put it there to be prepared. I could also use a new pair of casual dress shoes. I expect there to be some good sales in the coming weeks after Christmas.

Things I Don't Buy at Christmas

December 9th, 2017 at 06:16 am

I watch a fair number of YouTube videos. There are several out there right now for which the them is what they do not buy at Christmas. I thought I'd throw my take on it. Join in if you want!

I do not buy ribbons, bows and gift tags.
I still have gallon size ziplock bag of bows that I bought easily ten years ago that we reuse for gifts here at our home. Gifts that are not for us, are usually being stuffed in a car or a box, thus do not hold up well with bows and ribbon. I'm currently using up some blank address labels and free gift tags stickers. I simply write the name and stick it to the back of the gift. When I run out of free options, I will simply write directly on the package. Old cards you receive can be turned into a gift tag. I've even used cards stock I have on hand.

I do not buy live Christmas trees I have two artificial Christmas trees. One is from when I was a child, bought in the mid 1980s. And the second one was bought at the end of season at Target about three years ago. I paid $20. I expect at some point we will downsize and pass one of the trees to someone else to use, but I have enjoyed having two trees while living in larger homes. The trees are our main decorations.

I do not buy holiday music or movies We own Polar Express and about 6 discs of music. We have owned those for years, but as things have gone digital and streaming is available online we simply use free options for our listening and viewing needs.

I do not buy new gift bags. Years ago when my girls were in elementary school I bought some classic red and green gift bags through a fundraiser. I use these gift bags, along with others we have received gifts in over and over. I tend to keep the ones that are just red and green, so they all coordinate. And when I buy gift wrap, I choose ones that can be for kids or adults and stay with the red and green theme. I probably only buy four rolls of gift wrap every three years. I did use up one roll this year, so I expect to hit the clearance sales and pick up one or two. I also limit the amount of tissue paper I use by taping the top of the gift bag. No tissue needed!

I do not buy Christmas themed items This one is a bit all encompassing. I don't buy Christmas jewelry, special outfits, napkins, tableware or plastic storage containers.

For the most part you can probably tell, we just reuse what we have purchased in the past. The stockings for the girls are the only ones they have ever owned. Picking a classic style helped, not feel the need to replace something that was dated.

A few other places where our Christmas spending is limited, is we only buy two new ornaments a year. These are for our girls. I usually buy those ones at World Market for $2.50 each. Or I find some on clearance the year before. I currently only send three Christmas cards. One to my parents, one to my mother in law and one to my oldest daughter at college. Next year I will send four since my youngest will be at college. I did run out of cards this year, so that is another item I will buy on clearance at the end of the season.

Tell me what you don't buy during the holiday season.

A Simple Gift

December 8th, 2017 at 07:55 am

Not sure if I mentioned this yet on the blog, but I bought a neighbor and friend an amaryllis bulb for Christmas. I planted it in a pot with soil about mid November, with the plan to give it to her December 1.

The bulb shot up like crazy, so I had to give it to her early (November 27) because I didn't want her to miss the flowering! The most important part!!

I can't tell you how excited she was to receive it! I mean I even told her the pot was found in my garage...spent very little on the bulb ($6). I knew she would like it as she loves plants and is quite an outdoorsy person.

The gift has even given me joy, because she keeps sending me pictures of it as it has grown and started to bloom. I have to say this is one of the very best gifts I have ever given, simply because of the joy and appreciation my friend has for it. And even better it cost me so very little!

Here's the flower today. Sorry it is sideways...not sure how that can be correcedt. May try it later. But you get the idea!



What is a simple gift that you have given that has brought much joy to the recipient?

Netflix Increasing & Be Kind

December 5th, 2017 at 01:27 pm

I had an email this morning that our Netflix subscription amount is changing from $11.99 per month to $13.99 a month. Sounds like their will be more programs and the ability to download for later watching as benefits. Never a fan of price increases, but we will stick with Netflix for now.

Purchased my daughter some vitamins on Amazon today. I used the Discover cash back for a credit of $2.38. Final cost was $12.36. I think I will send that cash back amount to our Big Goal. I should add in the coupon savings from Sunday, too.

I had to take a mental health break today. I had some stress and anxiety pop up on me this morning. I'm feeling better already. To help, I called my mom, went for a two mile walk, ate a good lunch, and then took an epson salt bath. Later I added some relaxing oils to my diffuser while I listed to some very nice relaxing YouTube music. I also got up and got busy in the kitchen making some muffins and hummus (not to eat together!).

I share because this time of year can be stressful for various reasons. It is okay to take a time out and take care of ourselves. And it doesn't have to cost anything! And be kind to those you meet as you don't know what their current struggles may be.

The Cost of Books

November 30th, 2017 at 07:04 am

My daughters wanted a series of books. There are 12 in the series. I was told I could skip purchase book two as it is a combination of two other books my youngest daughter already owns.

Each book retails for $20. Thus this expense could have cost me $220!! No way was I going to pay that much out of pocket.

I figured if I could at least pay half of retail I would be doing good. I started purchasing earlier this fall. Two initial purchases came from buying used on eBay. One book was $12.40 with shipping and another was $11.13.

I mentioned that I sold some things back to a used book store and was able to use a $13+ credit towards a new book they had listed at the $20 retail price. I paid $7.70 out of pocket for that one.

The deals get better because I found three ex-library versions on eBay from one seller for $21.40. Average about $7 each.

And I made two separate purchase on eBay using Amazon gift cards I earned from Swagbucks over the last couple months. The book prices offered on Amazon varied from $13.59 to $17.36. One purchase was completely covered by gift cards and the other cost me $2.30 out of pocket.

In the end new books that could have cost me $220 new plus tax, were just $54.93 out of pocket. An average of $4.99 a book. A savings of 75%!

No worries that my girls will be offended by used books. They are fans of the library and know that book costs add up. And the used ones that did arrive are in very good shape! The three ex library books do have tags and tape on the side but again in very good shape! They will be very pleased, and hopefully surprised that I found all of the ones requested.

I do sort of wish I started earning the Swagbucks a little earlier so I could have reduced the out of pocket cost, but it is what it is! Still a great deal.

No Spend Wednesday!

November 29th, 2017 at 04:01 pm

No spending here at our house today. I didn't go anywhere, except a walk around the neighborhood where I ran into a friend. We walked and talked while enjoying the nearly 70 degree weather. I'd much rather be chatting with a friend then out shopping!

The pay period is winding down. I did pull $50 that I put into savings as it looked like I didn't budget quite enough for our expenses. My daughter suddenly needed water filters (yes, that is a need), and we purchased a pair of workout pants for my husband. I thought the pants were going to be a present for Christmas, but no he decided to wear them before I could wrap them! So those came out of our current budget rather than the Christmas budget. I still have $18 of the $50 in our account, so may be able to move some of that money back.

I wrapped the gifts that arrived in the mail yesterday. I can't tell you the relief I have that my November shopping and preparing have paid off. I will get nearly all of December to enjoy the holiday season. No stress. The money spent will not be on credit cards held over until January like so many. In fact, the cards I did use (and never pay interest on) will be paid before Christmas!

I'm starting to wonder if December will be a low spend month? That seems like the rarest of possibilities, but I sure do like the idea!

Finishing Up Shopping

November 28th, 2017 at 11:04 am

I am so close to finishing my holiday shopping!

I should have done some of this shopping yesterday, as I'm sure I would have saved a few dollars more. Oh well, I'm still happy with my purchases.

Today I ordered a shirt and jeans for my husband. I also added a two pack of infinity scarves for a niece and the required christmas stocking stuffer of socks for my girls. I bought these from Kohl's using a 20% off coupon and a $5 Kohl's cash. I spent $65. The jeans were Levi's, so they didn't get a discount. Free shipping and I didn't have to browse through the store. I think I just saved myself a lot of time making those couple purchases online today!

I'm heading to Walmart to pick up an item I need for dinner, and will see if I can add a few stocking stuffers in my cart! Some are food items and would probably be less expensive at the commissary, so will wait on those and purchase next week.

After the stocking stuffers are complete, I just need to order a card/board game my daughter wants. It is $20 on Amazon. I'm going to earn more Swagbucks, then redeem for a gift card and make that purchase for free!

Right now, the Christmas category in the budget has $183 in it. I still need to make another $50 deposit in December, but will actually just send that to my mother in law. I also need to mail three packages using those funds. I think we may come in UNDER budget! I will do a detailed run down of gifts and cost once I have it all done.

Ibotta Rebates

November 27th, 2017 at 09:47 am

After grocery shopping and making a run to Walmart for things the commissary didn't have, I was able to redeem $3.20 with Ibotta. I have now met the $20 threshold to cash out. I have decided to wait until the end of the year to cash out. I expect December and even early January will bring more options for rebates. Once you cash out, you have start again to meet the $20 threshold.

My daughter said no on one of the Wii U games I thought I could sell. That is okay. I will get three of them listed later this week. I probably should try for today with it being Cyber Monday.

I did purchase a cardigan for my oldest daughter at Target.com today. Their entire site is 15% off and this sweater was already on sale. Plus free shipping and 5% off with my Red Card. I think except for stocking stuffers, I'm doing shopping for her!

I bought my husband some new athletic pants this weekend. He was with so he could try on. I was going to make them part of his gift, but he already wore them!! I guess not. I think a couple new shirts may be just what he would like instead. Or even a new pair of jeans.

I'd really like to wrap up the Christmas shopping this week. The more I'm in stores, the more I see the deals which make me think I need things. And the truth is I don't. The quicker I'm done shopping the better!

Payday is Friday. Except for Christmas purchases, I don't intend to buy anything!

Bought One of My Christmas Gifts

November 24th, 2017 at 04:52 am

I briefly browsed Target.com yesterday and found they were having a sale on some electric toothbrushes. I've wanted one for awhile, but haven't wanted to spend a lot of money.

It's a Phillips Sonicare that was priced at $34.99 on sale, but there was a $10 off coupon once added to my cart. I also used my RedCard for 5% off and received free shipping. My final price was $25.40.

I briefly thought about buying one for each of my daughter's, but I think I will try it out first and consider it for future gifts.

My husband had been asking me what I wanted for Christmas. The truth is I don't need much. I just had a birthday and I don't have a lot of ideas. This will count as one of my gifts. I'll try to leave the rest up to him. We budget just $50 for each of us.

I hope you get some great deals online or out shopping today! Just don't spend more than you have or have budgeted!

Happy Thanksgiving! (Book coupon)

November 23rd, 2017 at 06:08 am

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am so grateful to live here in the United States that affords me and my family to pursue the life we want to live. I'm also grateful to Saving Advice as a place to talk about my life and share in yours.

I wanted to clue you into a coupon on Amazon.com. It's worth $5 off $20 worth of book sold by Amazon.com. The code is GIFTBOOK17 and is good through November 26th.

I had $47 worth of books in my cart this morning. I added the coupon code and $40 worth of Amazon.com gift cards (earned from Swagbucks and MyPoints) and paid $5.93 after taxes were added in. And these will be shipped free with my Amazon Prime membership.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled Thanksgiving!!

Not Much Spending

November 22nd, 2017 at 01:27 pm

I personally haven't spent much of anything the last three days. I did buy one Christmas gift, but that was paid out of the Christmas budget.

My husband did get his hair cut. I just now sent him to the store to get three food items. While he is there he is picking up the alcohol he wants for the holiday weekend.

We don't have plans to shop in stores on Friday...or likely any other day this weekend. If I know of a deal on something we were going to buy anyway I would likely pick it up online. The crowds are just more than I'm interested in dealing with.

We are having very nice weather, so hope to get out and enjoy the weather and maybe attend a free event downtown on Friday night. Otherwise, I'm going to be very happy watching a couple football games, watching a movie and playing games as a family. Oh, and we will probably decorate for Christmas at some point as well. Who has time for shopping with all of those fun activities?!

It's is my first ever Thanksgiving that I haven't spent with my oldest daughter or my parents! Seems a bit strange, but I'm also glad not to be flying this year.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Snowflakes & Holiday Shopping

November 19th, 2017 at 01:30 pm

I sold some Box Tops for Education on eBay today. I will net about $7 for some scraps of paper and cardboard. Easy money really.

We received our electric bill this week and finally it dropped significantly. I'm sure primarily due to cooler weather and having one heating and air unit completely off for a week. It was off because the compressor was bad, thus no point in using it. It has now been replaced. The drop was $80!! I'll make a point to put that money towards our Big Goal.

We went grocery shopping today for our Thanksgiving meal. Our meal itself actually isn't too fancy. I'm making Pot Pies, mashed potatoes (daughter's request), a salad and pumpkin pie. Even that sounds like too much food! I did however buy many of the ingredients we need for our holiday baking. And my husband has a meal at work this week he is contributing to. He bought rolls and I'm making cookies for him to take. We also bought some meat on clearance, coffee filters, and cat filter. We spent $200. I need to see how many Ibotta rebates I may qualify for...for a few more snowflakes.

My birthday was Friday and I received a check from my parents for $100. I added it to our Big Goal also.

Snowflakes add up!

$56 Extra Income & More

November 16th, 2017 at 06:36 am

I mentioned a few days ago that my neighbor asked me to make 6 more key fobs. A few days later, she asked to add one more on. I was quick to get the work done and yesterday she paid me $56 for the work. This goes towards the Big Goal.

In my planning November planning for Christmas, I'm making a point to stock up on things around the home. When we were at the commissary, I bought dish soap, laundry detergent, parchment paper, ziplock bags, vitamins, toothpaste and bar soap. I want to be stocked up through the end of the year, so that the only shopping I need to do in December is for food. The more I can stay out of the stores in December the easier it is to keep to the Christmas budget. I did notice I need coffee filters and toilet bowl cleaner, so I will pick those up this week.

Yesterday was pay day. All credit cards were paid off in full. I put $42 in the birthday category of our budget, $50 in Christmas, $940 in college and tuition (normal amount is about $410), and $272 for insurances and auto tags. There was money added to our car maintenance fund. It was negative after a having some recent maintenance done. Now it's back to zero. There was about $200 left, and I just dropped it into the emergency fund category for now. May need it elsewhere later in the month, but we will try without.

I have three items on eBay that I'd like to see sell soon. May need to drop the prices a bit, but a little extra cash would be nice.

Bought A Christmas Gift

November 14th, 2017 at 01:17 pm

I bought a Christmas gift for a neighbor today. She is a big nature lover, so I picked up an amaryllis bulb at Lowe's. It was priced at $5.98, and I was able to get $0.60 off with our military discount.

It was just the bulb in pretty packaging, so I thought I'd replant it and get it growing before I present it to her at the beginning of December. I found a dark green metal pot in my garage that is perfect for regifting! I added rocks from my yard to the bottom and then soil.

Simple gift, but hopefully meaningful to her!

Have you heard of the one and done concept? Make one gift and give to as many people on your list as possible. This is often good for neighbors or coworkers. I'd definitely do the amaryllis gift for more than one person but I keep neighbor gifts to a minimum. One other neighbor is getting cookies (she told me she is looking forward to them again, so I'm not going to disappoint).

Socks For Christmas

November 11th, 2017 at 05:03 am

Have you ever heard the story Socks for Christmas by Andy Andrews? I was given a copy of the audio version probably 15 years ago by a friend, along with a pair of socks. In fact, I think our entire family received socks from this friend. It made an impact, my girls still love to get socks for Christmas! As do I.

In my extended family, we adults have been known to exchange socks for Christmas. Smart Wool socks are a favorite. In the last couple years we have not been together on Christmas and have also ended our required gifts to each other. This year, however, I'm inspired once again to give socks for Christmas. These will go to my parents, sister and brother in law.

I got a very decent deal on socks at Kohl's last night. These are not our traditional Smart Wool socks, but a very nice Gold Toe dress pair for the men and a soft warm Cuddle Duds pair for the women. After three coupons applied, I paid $4.17 for the men's and $4.42 for the women's. I also picked up a new pair of slipper socks for myself for $5.21.

I plan to attach a tag with some words about socks and my memory of giving them socks in the past at Christmas. I told my husband my plan and he had a big smile on his face, because he knows how much fun we had giving each other socks in the past.

Small, simple gifts given from the heart often mean more than an expensive gift. What gift have you received that touched your heart?

Christmas Planning

November 2nd, 2017 at 08:06 am

I have aimed to have less stress during the holidays for several years now. The key to less stress is November. Yes, the month of November puts me ahead of schedule to complete the shopping, decorating and wrapping that comes with the holidays.

Yesterday, I printed off free November and December calendar pages to help me mark off all of the holiday activities, wrapping, shopping and planning that comes with the holidays. My first step was to meal plan for the month of November. I still have a few days left to figure out, but getting that task off my mind will help things run smoothly at home.

I'm Christmas shopping online already. My list isn't large and I have time, so I'm keeping eyes wide open to get the best deals. I also have a sewing project to do for a niece, so that will be one of the next things on my list. I want it done before Thanksgiving, so I'm not sewing at the last minute. That is definitely stressful!

Another thing I have learned over the years is to buy less. Buy for fewer people. Buy fewer gifts for those we do buy for. And spend less on the gifts. And guess what? Buying for fewer people doesn't take away the joy of the holiday! It does however save time, money and stress.

I know people will say 'well, I have to buy for....', but that is not true no one is forcing you to buy anyone a gift. It is all optional. Yes, you may need to give a reason, such as we are saving for X, so we need to cut our gift list back this year.

About three years ago, I asked my sister if we could stop exchanging with adults. So we no longer buy for her and her husband and they no longer buy for me and my husband. We give just to the kids. I specifically said, I'd rather you spend the time and money you would use for shopping for us on your own family. It does help that we aren't actually with each other at Christmas.

Our gift recipient list includes my parents, my mother in law, my daughters, two nieces, my husband and myself (my husband buys for me). I have other nieces and nephews, but that side of the family has gravitated away from the exchanges and we also are not there on Christmas anymore.

We will bake cookies and freeze, so if I need some for a work exchange or a neighbor they will be ready to give. This is along the lines of the One and Done concept. Give one gift to many and be done with it. No need to specialize every gift you give. I find nearly any food product to be great for this!

I'd like to hear your thoughts on planning ahead for the holidays and your gift giving plans.

Since My Last Post

October 23rd, 2017 at 05:26 am

Since my last post, I donated $100 to the daughter of an Army family we are friends with. She is raising money for a diabetic alert dog. She was super excited to receive the donation. I hope she can get the funding soon, as I know it will provide peace of mind to her and her mom.

I sold a Wii workout game online and made a couple dollars. After that transaction, I sent the profits from recent sales to our Big Goal. It's just $15, but it counts.

We spent Saturday at an RV show. Paid $30 to get in the door and $5 for parking. We also needed a snack before we left for lunch, easily over $10 at those concession prices. This activity was a picked as a birthday outing for my husband, so the money was budgeted. My husband is very interested in traveling in an RV after we retire. My biggest concern isn't the money, but the size of these things. They are huge, not that we would get the largest ones. Most likely the travel trailer versions. But I dislike interstate driving in my van, why would I want to drive something so large?! Truth is I probably would not be driving it at all. Only in an emergency situation. But all three of us really enjoyed checking out all the options and features of the RVs. Oh, and we drove 1.5 hours each way to check it out, so it was an adventure!

I recently had my wedding ring repaired. The main reason for the repair was it was cut off last time I was pregnant and ballooned up overnight and it was painful on my finger. The ring needed a new claw to hold the diamond. And I had to add gold to upsize it. In the end my repair cost me $172. If you are paying attention at all, yes, my youngest child is 17...so this is long overdue! I'm so happy to have it done though. It feels like a brand new ring.

Our entertainment budget has ballooned in the last couple weeks, as we have been attending away football games and competitions. I think we have just two more games and two more competitions. Admission and usually money for our daughter to get a snack add up! My husband and I are doing better about eating something before and holding our expense to a water if needed.

We are probably saving big on electricity this month. The weather has cooled considerably. Enough that we needed to switch to heat for a couple mornings. That switch to heat made us aware that our lower unit is not working at all. In fact, even with the thermostat on the wall off, the outside unit fan was still running! I turned it off at the main panel as soon as I noticed. Our landlord is aware and this is after a recent visit by professionals who have said the compressor is out entirely. So I think we are now waiting for a compressor to be ordered and then schedule. In the meantime, weather is mild and our electric usage should drop. At least I hope so!!

We've started digging into our stash of hurricane supplies. The season officially ends December 1, but I feel pretty confident our area is not going to be impacted this year. So this will help the budget a bit in the coming weeks as I make a point to use it up.

And finally, I purchased a new cell phone. Originally was leaning towards an iPhone, but decided the one I was interested based on price, the SE, was simply too small for my over 40 year eye sight! I ended up with a Motorola Z Play Droid from Verizon. Price was $335 or $14 a month. I will get a 5% discount each month on that portion ($0.70) by using my US Bank card. I made my last phone last 3.5 years, so If I can do the same with this one it will be well worth the money.

Busy month, plenty of spending, but it's all good.

Sold Airline Drink Coupons to Buy Books

October 18th, 2017 at 11:56 am

I sold some airline drink coupons that expire at the end of the year on eBay. We aren't going to be flying before the end of the year. If something changes we can forgo an adult beverage anyway. In my entire life I've only had one on an airplane. I used the funds earned to buy a used book that my daughter's want for Christmas. Zero out of pocket for that one.

I also used $35 worth of Amazon gift cards, earned on Swagbucks two purchase two other books the girls want for Christmas. They want this series of 12 books that cost $20 each brand new! Amazon does have them discounted, and gift cards earned make them zero out of pocket!

I found a fourth book today at the used book store. It was new, but I had a $13.70 credit, so it only cost me $7+ out of pocket. This present is working out to cost very little!

I'm not sure if I will get all 12 books, but I'll do my best. I figure they are likely to get Christmas money from relatives and can buy them if they want to add to the collection. Amazon can have them arrive in two days. I also think Amazon has been known to have a special in late November for $10 off a $25 purchase of books. So that would be helpful also.

Do you drink alcohol on airplane rides? Have you started Christmas shopping?

Various Money Updates

October 7th, 2017 at 06:11 am

I'm not sure why I haven't been posting! Everything is on auto pilot I guess. I have been around commenting and reading your blogs. I'll give you some various updates.

I did the first half of October's budget without my husband. I still have over $400 to allocate, so I will get him involved this weekend to figure those funds out. It seems like a lot of extra money for the first half of the month.

Retirement accounts are up big time with the recent stock market surge. Since January balances are up $80,000. That does include contributions. The more you have the bigger a 1% increase makes.

Interest earned on our cash in October was $92.04. Close to $100 a month in interest isn't anything to complain about. I did notice one bank increased their interest rate slightly (0.05%) again. We have $131 automatically deposited from my husband's paycheck to a savings account. I need to roll a couple months worth of those deposits into one of the CD's we have that is paying 2%.

My cell phone completely died on me this week. It is 3.5 years old, and some things have been failing so I've been working around them. In the meantime, I've switched my SIM card to my daughter's old cell phone. I have a VERY hard time deciding on phones. The newer ones Verizon offers seem so expensive!! I'm also debating moving to an iPhone since I have a Mac. Those are also expensive, but coming down a bit with the new release coming up. I would like the phone to have a good camera, too. I use it for my main camera. I have $195 in my cell phone replacement category and could easily find more money if I go with a more expensive phone.

I returned two pairs of shorts to Kohl's last week. That put $30 back in the budget which helped cover some new shoes we purchased for our older daughter.

We have saved quite a bit of money on high school football games recently. My husband and I have been volunteering in the concession stand for the band. This allows us to get in free (saves $14), and we get a free drink at the end which would cost us $4 if we have purchased. Last night even our daughter skipped buying anything to eat. Saving at least another $3. There have been four scheduled home games, and just one left. Overall savings is over $100. I wish we did this last year too. We will still have plenty of competition admissions this month, so the savings helps!

I've been purchasing some things recently too. It's part of my Getting Things Done series on my Organized Friends blog this month. Just yesterday I purchased two picture frames (both 50% off ) at Michael's for $29. This is something we have wanted to do for awhile, but I've put it off to avoid the spending. It feels good to get it done though. The amount spent is minor in comparison to our overall budget.

That's the money news!

Started Christmas Shopping & More

September 7th, 2017 at 07:14 am

I've started Christmas shopping! One item arrived in the mail on Tuesday and another arrives today from Hungary. I mentioned to my girls at the beginning of August that it was never too soon to give me Christmas gift ideas. And they have done just that. Their lists are not flushed out completely, but I figured these couple items would be good to get now. Later this month I'm going to brainstorm for everyone else on my list and start making a rough plan. We've been saving $50 a month since December, so will have $600 saved for gifts by mid November. Yes, $600 is enough, we buy for fewer people now, and buy less expensive simpler gifts. It really makes for a much nicer holiday season.

We did buy my husband his new speakers for our family room. Out of pocket cost for them, the stands and speaker was $457.88. This was paid for with the per diem he received from his summer travel. He is very happy with his purchase and I'm happy for him as he has wanted to replace our old set (which we received as a gift for our wedding) for awhile now.

For now the remainder of the per diem is in savings. I'm pretty sure it will go to the Big Goal, but next time we have a budget meeting, September 15, we will discuss again. We may use some to fund some short term savings, but then pay ourselves back. But it really ends up being saved either way.

We are prepared for Hurricane Irma heading to the southeast coast. We have water, batteries, a hand crank/solarweather radio and cell phone charger, cash, and plenty of non perishable foods. And yes a manual can opener, although we don't have many cans! The weather radio is new. I found one at Bed Bath and Beyond for $51, after my 20% off coupon. I feel lucky as many of these kinds of radios were not going to arrive until late next week!

I used quite a few coupons at the commissary yesterday while shopping. They totaled up to $8.20! I also submitted my receipt to Ibotta for another $1.50 in rebates. I will follow my own advice and transfer that $8.20 from my groceries budget line to the Big Goal. I'm not moving the $1.50 as that is a rebate I will get in cash once I meet the $20 cash out threshold.

I sold a book on eBay over the weekend. Only netted $0.92, but it is now out of our home.

This weekend our landlords drove nearly four hours to put new mulch down in the landscaping beds. It was so needed. In one bed, they changed it to rock. It was very overgrown and over filled with plants. Honestly it really always looked awful. Now it just has a crepe myrtle tree and three rose bushes (which are new) and it looks much better. They also agreed to leave one large backyard bed without much as it only has three trees in it and all the mulch had virtually disappeared and grass has almost filled it all in. This will be much easier to maintain...just mow the grass, no pulling weeds or spraying chemicals! It will save them money in the long term too.

Last Friday, the high school football game was cancelled due to a tornado watch and severe storms. They played their game on Saturday but the band was not needed. We would have been volunteering, thus getting free admission, but we saved the few dollars our daughter would have spent at the concession stand. Tomorrow's weather looks good, so a couple dollars for a evening snack is scheduled. This is how the band makes money, so our daughter does benefit when the money is spent at our home team's concession.

I'll wrap up the post to mention I'm making a photo book for my niece that was adopted by my sister and brother in law in December. I had made one for her older sister when she was adopted. I'm not nearby so I've been gathering the photos as the take them and send them to me. I'm about to wrap it up, order it and have it mailed to her in time for her birthday next week. I'm considering it an adoption gift, and sending money and a small item I'm sewing for her birthday separately.

A lot to do, so I must get back to it! Prayers to all in the path of Irma and those that love them!!

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 01:29 pm

We had some good news today on my daughter's University Bill. The school has applied her VA tuition payments. I'm not entirely sure they have received the funds, but they have noted them on her bill, so it appears we no longer owe the money. So now a bill for just $6,073.51. Most of that is for room and board, about $250 of that seems to be additional housing payment for the week she was in her dorm during band camp. I think something else was covered that we didn't expect. It seems they allowed her Honor's book scholarship of $250 to cover books. It didn't count towards tuition, so that was another $250 from the VA that went towards tuition. All done correctly it seems, just not what I was expecting.

There have been a few more school expenses. My daughter needs a conducting baton for her conducting class. We bought it used on eBay. It was about $22. Hopefully we can resell after this class. My younger daughter needed more notebooks and I picked up some printer paper. Out of pocket for those additional items was $4.03.

Other high school expenses I see coming up are $40 for senior dues (these primarily go to Prom I think), and my daughter's year book for $73. The yearbook isn't a need, but we have always bought them...and this is the last year!! We can afford it, so we are buying it.

Not sure how long it will take for the school to start talking about cap and gown orders and so forth. We will likely only order the cap and gown. We didn't do announcements for our older daughter and it was just fine. That will save some money. We also won't be having any big party. My parents, maybe my sister's family, will be in town and we will celebrate simply with them.

And then at some point we need to get senior pictures.

I made a donation to the American Red Cross to help Houston flood victims. I doubled our normal disaster amount. I wish we could do more, but if everyone helps it will make a difference. Consider miles you have or even Swagbucks if you don't have cash you can assist with.

I received a $3 Pinecone payment today. I redeemed $2.50 in coupons for groceries this week. Two were physical coupons, the other two were rebates with Ibotta.

That's the money news for now! I will get another Emergency Fund post up soon.

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 12:16 pm

In our budget discussions this weekend, I explained to my husband that I get overwhelmed with the sinking funds. The fewer I have the better, but lately we seem to have many more that I'm trying to juggle. And my post here, is just to talk about where we are now, not necessarily to fix it, as that is still part of the process we are working on.

The sinking funds that work really well that we have had for quite a long time are for auto insurance, registration, renter's insurance, and Christmas. I recently added birthday's and that one works really well, also.

Some of the one's that aren't as easy for me are: car maintenance and repairs, eye glasses, phones, and college expenses. Now to be fair these are newer categories I have set up in YNAB as a place to hold funds for the above listed expenses.

In the past, before YNAB, we had sinking funds for the auto registration, insurance, and Christmas. The other short term saving money was put into what I called a slush fund. That money was put into a separate savings account. When a bigger expense like eye glasses came up we would dip into it. And this way worked for many, many years.

I know I could still go back and even set this up in YNAB. I just want to be realistic in the knowing how much to put into the slush fund or these newer sinking funds. Because anything above what we need to save for those expenses, I'd really like to go to our Big Goal.

The nice thing about YNAB is that I can look at each category and see what we spent in the last year or year to date. For example last year, we spent $1,900 in car maintenance and repairs. That is an average of $165 a month. So far this year, we are on track to spend more. We have spent so far $1,537 in eight months, which is an average of $192. I think I want to use an average of the two years and start saving that when we get to January. Our vehicles are ten years old, repairs and maintenance are a given in the coming years.

We don't buy cell phones or eye glasses every year (usually) so that one is different. Much harder to figure out a monthly savings. Although again, looking at past expenses, I could probably come up some average over the last two years and save that amount monthly.

And then there is travel expenses and vacation. This includes flying our daughter here to visit and us visiting here. Last year, our Vacation spending was $9,270. More than half of that was for my daughter's trip to Europe. We had a small vacation to Nashville, and a trip back to our home state. This year our spending for travel is already at $2,526, an average of $315 a month.

Again, not really looking for advice, just explaining some of the things we are looking at for cutting, saving and managing better. These are line items in the budget we need to look at closely, if we are going to make progress on our Big Goal.

Tell me a bit about what you do for managing short term expenses such as the ones I described.

Cutting Out Lessons

August 21st, 2017 at 04:08 pm

We have decided to cut out flute lessons from our budget temporarily. While the decision effects the budget, it was not cut to influence the budget. We have figured out that a new flute teacher is not available on the days my daughter is available, which is only three days a week. The other four days a week all involve band practice, games or competitions. This makes her very busy this fall along with taking three AP classes (which at her school are all completed in one semester). We now have $25 a week to put back in the budget. We expect to start back up as early as December or as late as February depending on how the school classes seem to be going.

I went to the grocery store today and was able to purchase groceries for $59 for the week for my daughter and I. That seems super cheap. The meals are simple and I did find several of the things on my list on sale.

My older daughter (in college) started classes today. She already had to buy more things at the book store. A non graphing calculator to use on Calculus tests. She has a graphing one, but they are not allowed. And because she is in an 80 person class, she rented a Clicker. A Clicker is way for the professor to ask multiple choice questions and have the students respond on their Clicker and then be able to gauge how the class is doing. At least that is my understanding. As a music/graphing design major we don't expect her to be in any other classes requiring a clicker, thus the rental made the best economical sense.

I did get to see the eclipse. We are in an area where it was 96% covered. And it did not get completely dark. It was definitely a different kind of lighting and I did hear crickets chirping (apparently they think it's night). We had eclipse glasses that my mom sent. I invited two neighbors and their kids over to view using the glasses. The kids had made their own cereal box viewers, which kind of worked. I liked viewing through the glasses much better. I feel grateful to have experienced it.

Did you see the eclipse where you live?

Budget Discussion Part One

August 20th, 2017 at 06:23 am

My husband and I did a review of our budget that we track on YNAB yesterday. This really was a first step of our discussion and making new plans. For the most part we are on the same page, we both admitted areas we probably overspend. We discussed some larger ticket items we need to save for. We also talked about retirement and whether to keep saving at the same rate, about 18%, or lower it. We decided to keep it the same for now. We agreed to come back to the budget on September 1 when my husband is paid again and tweak some things. Around this same time we expect to be getting a per diem check for his summer school travels. We will need to make a solid plan on where that money goes.

We did go out to eat for lunch yesterday. I had a $30 gift card. Our bill was just under $20, so we still have more money to use there another time.

Other spending yesterday came to about $30, which seems very low for a weekend. Today will be grocery shopping for the week.

My mom sent me two pairs of eclipse glasses in the mail that she received for free. I appreciate her mailing them because I was having trouble finding any locally. I plan to invite my two neighbors with children over to share our viewing glasses.

Pays to Shop Around

August 19th, 2017 at 07:41 am

My husband is getting close to the point of needing to have his timing belt replaced on his Honda Ridgeline. This is based on mileage and owner's manual suggested maintenance. Our local Honda dealership quoted $1200! This seemed high to me based on around $750+ that we paid for our van a couple years ago. My husband called another dealership 30 minutes away this morning and was quoted $899. He also wants spark plugs replaced and those were quoted less as well. We haven't scheduled the maintenance yet, but once we have a free day and the cash set aside we will be getting the work done at the dealership that charges less.

Groceries are slim here at the house today. I think we are going to use a gift card I received for some pet care to try out a new restaurant for lunch. There may be a little out of pocket, but far less than without the gift card! Tonight we will eat dinner in, but we will need a couple items from the store. And then tomorrow I'll hit the commissary for the upcoming weekly food needs. Right now the grocery budget is still looking really good considering how far we are into the month.

Today my husband and I are going to sit down and discuss the budget. I'm excited to see what comes of it! What are we both willing to do in the next year to make our money work towards our goals.



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